Fear Factor

The following is an article I wrote for Columbia Woman Magazine.  It is published in the September / October issue under the title “FACING FEAR.”

I recently heard someone say, “Fear always has the last word!”  What a powerful statement! Is this a fact or simply an illusion?

Fear is a powerful influence.  It can protect us and it can also hold us back.  Fear can speak volumes, but fear can also lie to us.  Fear can guide us and fear can beguile us.  Powerful thing, this fear.  What’s even more powerful than fear, however, is overcoming fear.  That’s where the magic lies.
How many times in our lives have we said, “No” to opportunities because we are afraid of failing, of looking silly, of “falling on our face?”  I know I have denied myself more than my fair share of experiences because I’ve been afraid.  I’m sure you have, too.  Sad, isn’t it?  We are missing out!
In my personal practice and when I’m teaching yoga, my favorite things to do are arm balances and inversions.  Putting your heart over your head changes the way you look at the world.  It builds confidence, courage, and mental and physical strength.   I often refer to certain poses (Bakasana, Parsva Bakasana, Galavasana, Eka Pada Koundinyasana, etc,) as “poses dedicated to the art of falling on your face.”  Yes, there is a chance that you will fall. If you fall, there is a great chance that you will fall on your face.  There is an equal chance that you will not fall at all.
I was a gymnast when I was a young girl. Standing on my hands was as easy as standing on my feet.   I walked on my hands all over the place.  Somewhere along the line, I lost that ability.  Or, so I thought.  As it turns out, I didn’t lose that ability, I just gained something: fear.  Last week, I was practicing yoga at home and decided to do a handstand in the only way, as an adult, I know how: against a wall.  I easily got up on my hands and my heels rested against the wall for several minutes.  I came down, decided I wasn’t done, and went back up.  Again and again and again I did this.  At one point, I got up and my 100lb Labrador decided it was a prime opportunity to lick my face.  I howled with laughter, came down, patted my gentle giant, and decided to do it again.  This time, however, my heels never touched the wall.  I hovered, perfectly balanced on my hands, for 5 breaths!  Stunned, I came down and tried to figure out what in the world had happened.  I finally realized that only one thing had changed: I had simply forgotten to be afraid.  Without fear, I soared!
Trying something new is hard.  You might fall.  If you fall, however, how far are you going to fall?  In a yoga pose, you might fall a few inches.  Off the mat, if you try something new and fearful, you might fall through your ego, through your preconceptions, through your false ideals.  All survivable and all will teach you a lesson: you are resilient.  This lesson will stick with you when you have the opportunity to try again (and you WILL have the opportunity.)   If you fly, you will never forget the courage, the strength, the pride, the elation you feel as a result of taking a risk, of trying something new, of kicking fear in the pants!  We are stronger than we think, braver than we feel, and more incredible than we could ever imagine.
I can only see the final word as this: eventually, we all will FLY!


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